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Soldiers on Harare streets as ruling party accuses Zimbabwe army chief of treason

From Reuters - November 14, 2017

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwes ruling party accused the head of the armed forces of treason on Tuesday as troops took up positions around the capital in an escalation of a dispute with 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe over political succession.

Just 24 hours after military chief General Constantino Chiwenga threatened to intervene to end a purge in the ruling party, a Reuters reporter saw six armored personnel carriers on major thoroughfares on the outskirts of the capital.

Aggressive soldiers directing traffic told passing cars to keep moving through the darkness.

Dont try anything funny. Just go, one soldier said on Harare Drive.

The presence of troops, including the movement of at least six armored personnel carriers from a barracks northwest of Harare, sparked rumors of coup against Mugabe, although there was no evidence to suggest Zimbabwes leader of the last 37 years had been toppled.

The lead item on the ZBC state broadcasters evening news bulletin was an anti-military rally by the youth wing of Mugabes ZANU-PF party.

The Southern African nation has been on edge since Monday when Chiwenga, Commander of Zimbabwe Defence Forces, said he was prepared to step in to end a purge of supporters of a sacked vice president.

The unprecedented statement represents an escalation of a rumbling political struggle over who will succeed Mugabe, who has been in power since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980.

Mugabe chaired a weekly cabinet meeting in the capital on Tuesday. Afterwards, ZANU-PF said it stood by the primacy of politics over the gun and accused Chiwenga of treasonable conduct... meant to incite insurrection.

Mugabe fired Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa last week. The veteran of the 1970s liberation war was popular with the military and had been seen as a likely successor to Mugabe.

The army views his removal as part of a purge of independence-era figures to pave the way for Mugabe to hand power to his wife Grace Mugabe.

A Reuters witness saw two armored vehicles parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, about 20 km (14 miles) from the city. One, which was pointed in the direction of the capital, had come off its tracks.

Witnesses said they saw four armored vehicles turn before reaching Harare and head towards the Presidential Guard compound in a suburb on the outskirts of Harare.

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